About the situation brewing

The Feminism in London conference is in a few weeks, October 24-25.

Caroline Criado-Perez has just withdrawn from the conference. She explains why.

She starts with the ridiculous no-platforming of Kate Smurthwaite by Goldsmith’s in February.

The reality was, as we all knew, that Kate had become the latest victim of the no-platforming rash sweeping contemporary leftist and feminist circles. The kicker? Her stand-up show had not been about prostitution (her views on which had resulted in the objection to her appearance), but about, wait for it, free speech. Yeah. Ironic, huh?

Many of us felt that this was the final straw. The censorship and no platforming debate had been rumbling on for a while, but this was such a ridiculous example, that some of us felt the time had come to speak up against it. I was one of the signatories of a letter printed in The Observer, calling on student unions to stand up to factions of malcontents who would rather silence speech they disagreed with than to debate with it (and presumably defeat it if it is so self-evidently wrong that we don’t even need to hear it).

Well you see it’s a kind of alchemy. If you keep straining and then straining again, reducing all the impurities until finally there is no impurity left at all – Total Social Justice will have arrived at last. There won’t be any humans to enjoy it, but they’re too imperfect to survive all the strainings.

Now Jane Fae has withdrawn from the Feminism in London conference. As with Kate, it’s her views on prostitution that are the problem, but for opposite reasons – libertarians versus a radical in Kate’s case, radicals versus a libertarian in Jane Fae’s.

Having spoken to both Jane and the organisers of Feminism in London, my understanding of what took place is that a few people complained about Jane’s inclusion, the organisers informed Jane about the situation brewing, and Jane decided to pull out. I think Jane’s decision is an honourable one — she didn’t want the discussion to be derailed and to become about her. And it was her decision — but it would be dishonest not to acknowledge that her hand was forced to a certain extent, even though I believe that this was not the organisers’ intention. But, as we are so often informed, “intention isn’t magic”. The effect has been that Jane has been put in a position where she felt unable to speak.

That’s an uncomfortable position, and you know what? People don’t have to put up with that. People will walk, and the bullies will be left in possession of the battlefield, but they’ll be alone there. You can’t get to Social Justice from there.

I am dismayed by the path feminism has taken over the past year or so. None of us has all the answers. None of us has the key to ending patriarchy. Some of us are right about some things; others are right about others. We all have different life experiences and this leads to different perspectives. The only way forward is to create respectful spaces where all opinions can be heard and debated.

There will be fewer rewards handed out for Achievements in Purity, but more for collaboration and thoughtful engagement.

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